There was an excellent interview on NPR today with Frank Schaeffer. Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.
Schaeffer was a main player in the build up of the Religious Right, so he has first hand insight as to what drives it. In the interview he states:
The right wing and the evangelical preachers and people like Dr. Dobson and others realized that this cultural political stuff was ten times bigger when it came to both fund raising and giving them access to power, than simply talking about Jesus or helping the poor or whatever it might be. Our issues were much sexier, but you can’t ONLY talk about abortion. Pretty soon you have to have some new scandal of the week to go after, and of course the gay movement as it was emerging in tandem during that same period in the 60s, 70s and into the 80s presented a good target. You have a minority population who are living in a life style that will shock the sensibilities of fundamentalist Christians. So after you go after the abortionists, this presents another group. So once the religious right got into the habit of playing “church lady” to essentially the whole culture, both judging and condemning and also offering a solution – which was essentially to put their people in power – you needed to keep cranking that out.
His comments parallel what I have been feeling for a long time - that all of this hype over various issues is as much about fund raising as it is about anything else. Most of the mailers I get from Right leaning ministries usually contain something that I should be afraid of. I wrote these thoughts down in a previous blog post: Evangelical Exaggeration.
Schaeffer also talks about being raised fundamentalist, which I resonated with. He gave the example that a person raised fundamentalist doesn't know how to have a normal conversation. Everything you say to someone "unsaved" is just a lead in. You want to get around all this unimportant stuff regarding their life - so that you can give them a tract. I laughed and cringed when I heard that... so close to home.
You can listen to the NPR interview here.